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THE SITUATION ROOM
Trump Campaign Adviser Sought Hillary Clinton E-Mails; New Russia Sanctions; Judge Issues Ruling in Stormy Daniels Case; Lawyer for Stormy Daniels Makes New Attempt to Depose Trump; Russia Vows "Harsh Response" to New U.S. Sanctions on Putin Allies; Arizona Governor: 150 National Guard Members to Deploy Next Week. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired April 6, 2018 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: A Trump campaign adviser thought he had access to e-mails deleted from Hillary Clinton's server and wanted top government agencies to verify them, so they could be used against her. Stand by for a CNN exclusive.
Search and seizure. The special counsel obtains a new search warrant in its investigation of former Trump campaign Paul Manafort. What do prosecutors hope to find after getting access to five telephone numbers?
And Stormy delayed. The president's lawyer was just granted more time to respond to the porn star's lawsuit as her attorney is taking another shot at trying to depose Mr. Trump under oath. New fallout tonight now that Mr. Trump has broken his silence about Daniel's hush deal.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Breaking tonight, Russia is vowing a harsh response to new U.S. sanctions against members of Vladimir Putin's inner circle, punishment for Kremlin aggression, including interference in the 2016 presidential election.
The White House insisting tonight the sanctions won't affect Mr. Trump's hoped-for meeting with the Russian president.
Also breaking, stock prices plummet as the president threatens to hit China with additional tariffs and his Treasury secretary admits it could lead to a trade war.
This hour, I will speak with a man who led sanctions campaigns against the Putin regime, Bill Browder. And our correspondents and analysts, they are all standing by.
First, let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Pamela Brown. Pamela, Mr. Trump's policies are riling up Russia and China tonight.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
Both Russia and China ratcheting up their rhetoric against the Trump administration in response to these recent actions, with Russia saying that there will be a harsh response to the recent sanctions and China threatening to impose more tariffs on the Trump administration.
BROWN (voice-over): President Trump is not backing down, announcing Thursday night he is threatening an additional $100 billion in tariffs against China, even if those threats rock an already volatile stock market.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The easiest thing for me to do would be just to close my eyes and forget it. If I did that, I'm not doing my job.
I'm not saying there won't be a little pain, but we're going to have a much stronger country when we're finished.
BROWN: The latest threats taking many by surprise, including some in the president's own party. Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse issuing a harshly worded statement saying: "Hopefully, the president is just blowing off steam again, but if he's even half-serious, this is nuts."
Larry Kudlow, the president's new top economic adviser, admitted to reporters he himself only found out about the president's decision to threaten more tariffs Thursday night.
QUESTION: When did the president first tell you he was going to announce these additional potential $100 billion in tariffs?
LARRY KUDLOW, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: Last evening.
BROWN: Kudlow emphasizing those tariffs are merely a proposition.
KUDLOW: This is just a proposed idea which will be vetted by USDR and then open for public comments. Nothing's happened, nothing's been executed. I read about how -- there's no there there yet, but there will be.
BROWN: But today's stock market plunge accelerated after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said this on television:
STEVEN MNUCHIN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: There is the potential of a trade war. And let me just be clear. It's not a trade war. The president wants reciprocal trade.
BROWN: The administration today also taking a tougher stand on Russia, announcing active measures against Russian oligarchs and imposing new sanctions against 17 government officials for meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections. SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: What we would
like to see is the totality of the Russian behavior changed and we want to continue having conversations and work forward to build a better relationship.
BROWN: All this as the White House is reeling about the future of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.
TRUMP: I think that Scott has done a fantastic job. I think he is a fantastic person.
BROWN: CNN has learned the president recently floated the idea of replacing Attorney General Jeff Sessions with Pruitt, despite controversy surrounding Pruitt, and that Trump's own chief of staff, John Kelly, had advocated for firing the embattled EPA administrator before the headlines get worse for the administration.
So far, that advice has not been heeded. The president is outright defending Pruitt, implying the multitude of negative stories around him are all made up, tweeting: "Do you believe that the fake news media is pushing hard on a story that I am going to replace A.G. Jeff Sessions with EPA Chief Scott Pruitt, who is doing a great job, but is totally under siege? Do people really believe this stuff? So much of the media is dishonest and corrupt."
HUCKABEE SANDERS: The president feels that the administrator has done a good job at EPA. He's restored it back to its original purpose of protecting the environment. It's gotten unnecessary regulations out of the way and we're continuing to review any of the concerns that we have.
BROWN: And today a White House official says that the president did meet with his embattled EPA administrator. The official would not detail the conversations, only saying, Wolf, that it was pre-scheduled and focused on policy.
BLITZER: Pamela Brown over at the White House, thank you.
We now have exclusive new CNN reporting on the lengths the Trump campaign went to try to get dirt on Hillary Clinton through her infamous e-mails.
Our chief security national correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is here to break the story for us.
Jim, what more can you tell us?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, my colleague Jenna McLaughlin and I were told by multiple sources a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign pushed government agencies, including the FBI and the State Department, to review material obtained from the Dark Web from the summer of 2016 that he thought were Hillary Clinton's deleted e-mails.
His push just the latest example of Trump advisers who were mixed up in efforts to find dirt on Clinton, including potentially stolen e- mails, all this during the presidential campaign.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): Tonight, CNN has learned that a Trump campaign adviser played a key role in an effort to find Hillary Clinton's 30,000 deleted e-mails on the Dark Web and reveal any damaging information contained within them.
Joseph Schmitz, a former Death penalty of Defense inspector general, was a foreign policy adviser to the campaign, seen here seated at a table with candidate Trump in March 2016. Meeting with officials at the FBI, State Department, and the intelligence communities' inspector general, he told them a source he called Patriot had discovered what he believed were the deleted e-mails on the Dark Web.
Schmitz then pushed for the governor to review and declassify the material, so he and others could review it without jeopardizing Schmitz's security clearance. All this according to multiple sources with direct knowledge.
Officials at the State Department and inspector general briefly interviewed Schmitz, but they declined to review or accept the information. The FBI also interviewed him as part of its ongoing criminal investigation into Clinton's e-mails.
Schmitz then took his information to the House Intelligence Committee. This is the latest example of Trump's advisers mixed up in efforts to find dirt on Clinton.
Fired chief strategist Steve Bannon told the House Intelligence Committee in February that Trump campaign staff were repeatedly contacted by outsiders suggesting ways to get the Clinton e-mails, this according to a source familiar with Bannon's testimony.
A Trump campaign official tells CNN -- quote -- "The campaign does not comment on matters of interest to the special counsel or the congressional committees."
The material was never verified. A cyber-security expert who also saw the material on the Dark Web told CNN it appeared to be fake based on what he read and where it was posted. "I'm pretty sure they were posted on the Dark Web equivalent of Reddit," he said.
Schmitz, reached by CNN in person and via e-mail, declined to comment.
SCIUTTO: Sources tell CNN there was no indication that Schmitz was communicating with or influenced by agents of a foreign power when he brought this material to U.S. government agencies. I should mention Schmitz was one of Trump's first five campaign foreign policy advisers, this in the spring of 2016. Schmitz counseled Trump through the November election, this according to his professional biography, and after Trump's victory, he considered Schmitz as a possible secretary of the Navy.
Oftentimes in cases like this, you might hear from the campaign that this was a coffee boy, as they described George Papadopoulos, but Schmitz certainly no coffee boy. He had a role in the campaign.
BLITZER: And he had impressive credentials too going into the campaign. How were they able -- I don't know if you know the answer to this -- to determine all of this from the so-called Dark Web was fake?
SCIUTTO: Well, to be clear, When Schmitz brought this material, knowledge of this material to, remember, the FBI, the State Department and the inspector general and the office of the director of national intelligence, the fact is, they didn't really want to touch this. It came from the Dark Web, could have been stolen.
They were not interested in going there, in effect, although they did to cursory interviews with him. But we spoke to someone who reviewed the material at the time. He said he looked at the material and could tell fairly quickly, based on both the providence, where it came from on the Dark Web, but also just the way it looked, that it did not appear to be the real deal, as it were, genuine deleted e-mails from Hillary Clinton's private server.
BLITZER: Excellent reporting. Thanks so much, Jim Sciutto, for that.
Now let's go to more breaking news we're following, the breaking news on those new U.S. sanctions against wealthy Russians very close to Vladimir Putin.
We're learning more about what these Kremlin cronies have been up to and why they're being targeted.
Let's bring in CNN's Brian Todd.
Brian, these Russian oligarchs, as they're called, they have money and they power and they are clearly using it.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf.
We've learned that these Russian oligarchs are spending billions buying up properties in Europe and the U.S. And they go to incredible lengths to hide it.
According to the Treasury Department, one oligarch now under sanction is alleged to have brought as much as $24 million at a time into one Western country in suitcases. These are men with close ties to Vladimir Putin who love their money and properties, but not the attention that goes with. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
TODD (voice-over): Oleg Deripaska doesn't like to talk about his connections to Vladimir Putin. But, tonight, Deripaska is one of several Russian oligarchs in Putin's inner circle sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department.
Another is Putin's son-in-law, Kirill Shamalov, who became a billionaire after marrying Putin's daughter. What is a so-called oligarch? Experts say they are rich Russian businessman who got their money through their connections to power, specifically Putin's power.
BEN JUDAH, AUTHOR, "FRAGILE EMPIRE": His allies, his oligarch, his chiefs of police in the military can pillage the country and then store those assets in the West. And they're permitted to do so by Vladimir Putin, as long as they get loyalty in return. What they then give Putin back in return is enthusiasm, support, a cut.
TODD: Putin denies that.
But Bill Browder, a financier who's exposed much of Putin's alleged corruption and successfully pushed tough sanctions laws in the U.S., says Putin's cuts of the oligarchs' deals are legendary.
BILL BROWDER, LED SANCTIONS CAMPAIGN AGAINST VLADIMIR PUTIN: Vladimir Putin, I believe, to be the richest man in the world. I believe he's worth $200 billion. That money is held all over the world, in banks in America and all over.
The purpose of Putin's regime has been to commit terrible crimes in order to get that money.
TODD: CNN can't independently verify Browder's assertion. There's no doubt Putin is wealthy, but he tries to hide it.
NATE SIBLEY, THE HUDSON INSTITUTE: From his official wealth declaration, that he owns, I think it's two Soviet era cars. I think he owns a flat in Moscow or St. Petersburg.
TODD: Experts tell CNN once they build up their cash in Russia, they're eager to bring it to the West.
SIBLEY: There's a lot of cash flowing around under the table and in private jets being flown all over Europe and the U.S. That's hard to keep track of.
TODD: Oligarchs buy mansions and condos in Florida and London, apartments in New York, yachts, even sports teams. In 2008, Dmitry Rybolovlev bought a mansion in Palm Beach from Donald Trump for $95 million.
Oligarchs buy up these properties to park their money outside Russia and protect it.
SIBLEY: The great benefit of money your money into the West via anonymous shell corporations, usually, is that suddenly you own high- value assets, houses, yachts, private jets, whatever it is, in countries that will defend your legal right to keep these things in a way that Russia itself won't.
TODD: And fort oligarchs, an added benefit to owning those properties, a sense of social acceptance.
SIBLEY: It makes them look glamorous. It makes them society figures on the social scene in New York. They can then engage in philanthropy, funding art galleries, museums.
TODD: Many of the oligarchs now under sanction have denied any nefarious deeds.
And the Kremlin is denying their existence. Vladimir Putin's spokesman saying there are no oligarchs in Russia. As for Bill Browder's claim that Putin has amassed huge personal wealth, Putin has called that accusation garbage -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting, thank you.
Let's talk more about all of this with the man you just heard and saw our Brian's piece, the financier Bill Browder, who led sanctions campaigns against Vladimir Putin.
Bill, thanks so much for joining us.
BROWDER: Thank you.
BLITZER: How does Vladimir Putin view these latest U.S. sanctions, do you believe?
BROWDER: I think this is a shot right between the eyes for Vladimir Putin.
There have been numerous attempts at trying to respond to his bad actions, his aggression in Ukraine and Syria and various other places that have all missed the mark. But I would say that this particular action, going after these super rich oligarchs who look after his money, is a shot right between the eyes.
BLITZER: What sort of role do these sanctioned people, these sanctioned companies play in Russian?
BROWDER: Well, one has to understand that, unlike the West, where you have government officials and then you have business, effectively, these businessmen are sort of quasi-government officials. These people are people who are merged into the interests of Vladimir Putin and senior members of his regime.
And so in their billions of dollars, first of all, not all of it is theirs. A lot of it belongs to Putin and other senior government officials. But these people also carry out tasks. They are involved in election meddling in Europe in the United States. They're involved in all sorts of other tasks that they're being assigned by Vladimir Putin using the money that they have illegally and illegitimately amassed in Russia.
BLITZER: Russia, as you know, is promising what they describe as a very harsh response. The Foreign Ministry issued a statement: "We would like to advise Washington to get rid of illusions that we can be spoken to with the language of sanctions."
What do you think that harsh response by the Russians will look like?
BROWDER: It can't be a symmetric response, because Bill Gates and Warren Buffett don't have a lot of assets in Russia that they can seize and sanction.
And so whatever that response is going to be, it is going to have to be asymmetric. And as far as the asymmetric responses go, they have used up a lot of their so-called asymmetric responses in emotional outbursts in the past, after 2014 sanctions on Crimea, after the 2012 Magnitsky sanctions.
And so I'm not sure if I could conjure up in my own mind what they could do now, because I think that they have in a certain way exhausted most of their tough responses.
BLITZER: As you know, Putin's son-in-law is being among those sanctioned with these latest U.S. sanctions. Could Putin target the President Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner?
BROWDER: He could target him all he wants, but, as far as I'm aware, Jared Kushner doesn't own property in Moscow.
And so whatever sanctions Putin wants to come up with are not going to have any impact on Jared or anyone else in Trump's family.
BLITZER: But a lot of these big real estate firms, they rely on loans, and some of those loans come from these Russian oligarchs, right?
BROWDER: Well that's that's that's one of the allegations.
I don't think anyone has so far proven that. And maybe that is the asymmetric response, if it's indeed true. But I have a hard time believing that all of a sudden we're going to see massive bankruptcies of Jared Kushner as a response to this. It just doesn't seem in what's going on that's that's going to be what's going to happen.
BLITZER: Despite these pretty tough moves announced today, President Trump continues to speak rather warmly about Putin.
Is that something Putin will try to preserve?
BROWDER: Well, I can't explain this, what I would call schizophrenic behavior of the Trump administration. On one hand, you're absolutely right. Trump says all sorts of nice things about Putin, doesn't seem to say anything bad about Putin. On the other hand,the administration itself, as we saw today, is very, very tough on Russia. They did this. They did Magnitsky sanctions in December.
They supplied weapons to Ukraine. These are all things that are, I would argue, as tough as could be on Russia. And so I don't know exactly who's playing at what. But I am very satisfied with this set of sanctions and what they're achieving.
BLITZER: We're told the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal's condition is improving. He was poisoned by this nerve agent.
I know in the past you have suggested you feel threatened as well. Do you feel safe now?
BROWDER: Well, I don't ever feel safe being one of Putin's top enemies.
However, I feel safer when the West, the United States and hopefully Great Britain respond forcefully to bad actions, because Putin is a guy who understands one thing, which is real barriers and real constraints.
And while he may be huffing and puffing about this, this is a serious barrier and a serious constraint. And that's the kind of thing, consequences, that Putin will think about next time he tries to do something terrible.
BLITZER: Bill Browder, thanks so much for joining us.
BROWDER: Thank you.
BLITZER: Just ahead, there's more breaking.
Some of the wealthy Russians sanctioned by the U.S. have these very close ties to Vladimir Putin and to President Trump's associates as well.
Up next, why they could be of interest to the special counsel, Robert Mueller.
And a judge give President Trump's lawyer more time to respond to a lawsuit by Stormy Daniels, but did the porn star gain an advantage once the president broke his silence about it?
BLITZER: We're following multiple breaking stories, including Russia heading back at the United States for new sanctions against wealthy and powerful members of Vladimir Putin's inner circle.
Right now, let's connect the dots to the special counsel's Russia investigation, as Robert Mueller looks into possible collusion and clearly follows the money.
Our justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider, is digging in on all of that.
Jessica, several of these sanctioned Russians, they have links to various Trump associates.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly, Wolf.
So there are three notable names on that sanctions list. All are Russian oligarchs and all are connected to the president's associates in some way. In fact, one even attended the inauguration.
Mueller's team has already indicted 13 Russian nationals for their role in the election meddling during the campaign. And now, as these new sanctions are announced, the question is, could these oligarchs also be in the special counsel sights?
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Tonight, several prominent Russians who have been sanctioned by the Trump administration have ties to President Trump's associates and could be of interest to special counsel Robert Mueller.
On the list, billionaire Oleg Deripaska, who agreed to invest nearly $19 million in a failed business venture with former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Is it true that Mr. Manafort owed you millions of dollars when he was the head of the Trump campaign?
SCHNEIDER: He wouldn't answer questions from CNN's Matthew Chance when confronted last year.
"The Washington Post" previously reported Manafort offered to provide Deripaska with private briefings when Manafort was Trump's campaign chairman.
Also on the sanctions list, Alexander Torshin, a top deputy at Russia's central bank. Torshin has longstanding ties to the National Rifle Association. And McClatchy has reported the FBI is investigating whether Torshin may have used the NRA to illegally funnel funds to the Trump campaign.
Torshin has denied this. And the NRA says no foreign funds went to election spending. Torshin had a brief interaction with Donald Trump Jr. in 2016 and also reportedly played a role in an effort to arrange a meeting between Trump and Putin that same year.
And Viktor Vekselberg, an oil and metals tycoon, has also been targeted for sanctions. Vekselberg attended President Trump's inauguration, and two of Vekselberg's associates who are American donated to the event. Vekselberg also attended the same dinner in Moscow were Michael Flynn sat near Russian President Vladimir Putin in December 2015, according to NBC.
MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: There's thought, though not proven yet, that there may have been back channels use by oligarchs to fund the Trump campaign and perhaps the inauguration as well.
SCHNEIDER: CNN reported this week that Mueller's team has pinpointed at least three Russian oligarchs whose identities are unknown for questioning.
One was stopped when his private plane landed in the New York City area, and agents searched his electronics.
ZELDIN: There's a clear connection not only between Manafort, Gates and the oligarchs, but now Mueller looking at the oligarchs directly and interviewing them in an effort to understand from their point of view what happened here. So it's a widening net for Mueller and a tightening noose for Manafort.
SCHNEIDER: Manafort has pleaded not guilty to criminal indictments in Virginia and Washington, D.C., stemming from the Mueller probe.
And now CNN has learned Mueller's team is using information obtained during the Manafort investigation to continue to look for alleged criminal activity. In fact, prosecutors revealed they obtained a search warrant in early March that gave them access to five AT&T phone numbers and that warrant is somehow related to Paul Manafort.
SCHNEIDER: And Mueller's team has filed multiple documents in just the past few weeks that hint extensively that this investigation is far from over.
In fact, the latest filing indicates that more charges could be filed against Manafort or even people connected to Manafort.
Now, meanwhile, McClatchy is reporting that the special counsel's team has questioned a Trump Organization associate who has worked on overseas deals with the president's company in recent years. The outlet reports that investigators showed up unannounced at that associate's home and were particularly interested in getting more information about interactions involving Michael Cohen.
Of course, that's the president's longtime personal attorney. Now, it was just a few weeks ago when we learned that Mueller's team had subpoenaed documents from the Trump Organization. And the family business does have dealings all over the world.
So now, Wolf, the question is if Mueller is looking into the family finances of the Trump Organization beyond what they have in Russia, Trump has warned that that might be crossing a red line. So, what could happen from there? We wait and see -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, we will. Good reporting. Thanks very much, Jessica Schneider.
Just ahead, there's more breaking news. Russia's vowing a harsh response to the new U.S. actions targeting a number of billionaires and Kremlin insiders. Why did the Trump administration act now?
And a judge issues an important ruling in Stormy Daniels' lawsuit against President Trump. What does it mean for her case?
BLITZER: We have breaking news this hour in the Stormy Daniels case. A judge has granted a request by the president's lawyer to extend the deadline to respond to the porn star's lawsuit. This as Daniels's attorney is making a new attempt to depose the president under oath, after Mr. Trump broke his silence about Daniels's hush-money deal.
[18:33:14] Our national correspondent, Sara Sidner, is following all these late-breaking developments. Sara, the president's remarks poured new fuel, apparently, on this firestorm.
SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. Look, there are new incremental wins for Donald Trump when it comes to the court.
However, the comments that he made for the very first time on Stormy Daniels could cause new problems for him, too.
SIDNER (voice-over): Porn actress Stormy Daniels is performing in the Midwest this weekend, touted as "infamous" on a St. Louis venue's web site, and a cartoon of President Trump right next to her picture with the words, "alleged affair," This as her attorney, Michael Avenatti, is vowing to refile his request Monday to depose President Trump following the president's first ever comments about the hush deal.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And why -- why did Michael Cohen make it if there were no truth to the allegations?
TRUMP: You'd have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael Cohen is my attorney, and you'll have to ask Michael.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?
TRUMP: No, I don't know. No.
SIDNER: Daniels is suing to get out of the confidentiality agreement she claims is void, because Donald Trump never signed the deal himself. Avenatti says Trump's claim that he knew nothing about the payoff, steering reporters to his attorney, Michael Cohen, instead bolster Stormy Daniels's case. MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS: It's like Christmas
and Hanukah rolled into one. You can't have an agreement if one party claims they knew nothing about the -- one of the principle terms of the agreement.
So the president has just shot himself in the foot, thrown his attorney basically, Michael Cohen, under the bus in the process, put him in dire straits with the state bar of New York, because according to the president now, Mr. Cohen was negotiating this agreement and doing this all on his own without consultation with the president.
[18:35:09] SIDNER: Late today, a federal judge granting Trump's attorney's request for more time to respond to Daniels's lawsuit until a decision is made on whether the case is moved out of the courtroom and into private arbitration.
Daniels's former attorney, Keith Davidson, represented her in that agreement. In an exclusive interview with CNN, Davidson said after he was fired from the case, Michael Cohen was encouraging him to spill his guts about the Daniels case and the case involving "Playboy" Playmate Karen McDougal, both of whom say they had affairs with Trump.
KEITH DAVIDSON, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS AND KAREN MCDOUGAL: Michael Cohen called me in the last week or two.
SIDNER (on camera): And what did he say to you?
DAVIDSON: He called to offer his opinion as to whether or not Ms. Daniels and Ms. McDougal had breached the attorney/client privilege and, thereby, waved it. And it was his assertion that each of them had. And he was encouraging me and informing me as of his opinion, and he suggested that it would be appropriate for me to go out into the media and spill my guts.
SIDNER: Are you here at the behest of Michael Cohen?
DAVIDSON: No, no. No. Not in any way, shape or form.
SIDNER: But he did tell you to go out and spill your guts?
DAVIDSON: Right. Yes.
SIDNER: Why do you think that is?
DAVIDSON: Well, you'd have to ask him.
SIDNER (voice-over): Now, CNN is learning after the Daniels deal was done, Cohen referred a client to Davidson. Davidson tells us the client was Chuck LaBella, a producer on "The Apprentice," the "Miss USA" pageant and "Miss Universe," all involving Donald Trump.
LaBella had an issue with actor Tom Arnold, who tweeted several times last fall that LaBella possessed damning information about Trump that Arnold claims involved Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Davidson says he wrote a cease and desist letter to Arnold's attorney on LaBella's behalf.
LaBella told CNN a friend did call Davidson on his behalf, but LaBella never considered Davidson his attorney, because he never paid him.
Then just last month Arnold commented on Twitter that "Michael Cohen had Chuck LaBella hire Keith Davidson to try to keep me quiet about Trump, Russia, Miss Universe 2013."
SIDNER: Now, LaBella has called those slanderous and outright lies. As for Michael Cohen, he has not commented, and we have to mention that Donald Trump has repeatedly, through the White House, said that no affairs ever happened -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Sara Sidner reporting for us. Thanks very much.
Let's quickly get to our analyst, Joey Jackson. You're our legal analyst. How long do you think the president can -- and his team, legal team -- delay a deposition?
JACKSON: Good evening, Wolf.
I think that they're going to want to delay it indefinitely, right? They're going to take the position that he's the president of the United States, certainly more pressing matters that he needs to accomplish. Why should he be deposed? He's not a party to the contract. He knows nothing about the contract.
However, not so fast, Mr. President. Here's the point. In a deposition, right, the judge generally will allow the depositions as a right. If you're going to get relevant evidence, that is, is a fact more provable or disprovable as a result of a deposition, you get to depose someone. Is it useful, what we lawyers call probative to the case? If so, you get to depose someone.
And so I certainly think that, whether or not he'll be deposed, certainly, is within the legal limits, right? We start with the proposition that no president, no person is above the law. If that's the case, he certainly should be able to sit for a deposition and not be able to delay it in a fashion that's unreasonable.
So some latitude, but at the end of the day the judge may say, "Mr. President, have a seat. Answer some questions. Raise your hand and swear to tell the truth."
BLITZER: We'll see if that happens.
Ron Brownstein, what does it say that the president has remained silent on the Stormy Daniels matter until last night when he was aboard Air Force One when he denied having any knowledge about that $130,000.
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Which he has to do, right? And politically, there's no other answer that is plausible for him. On the other hand, as Michael Avenatti is arguing, that creates legal problems.
I think if you kind of think about the political impact about this, it does have potential to reinforce what we're already seeing, which is the potential for a more meaningful gender gap than has been common in American politics. It's possible to overstate the impact of the gender gap historically, but when you're looking at a couple things that have already come together in the views of Trump among women, enormous turnout among African-American women that we've seen in the elections of 2017, the big movement away from the president and Republicans among college-educated white women, which is at the heart of the suburban vulnerability. And the open question of whether that extends to the blue-collar white women who were so important to his victory.
A lot of that is based on his behavior, you know, his values more than his agenda with the exception of the attempt to repeal the ACA. This is the kind of thing that stays in the news and inflames those concerns.
[18:40:09] BLITZER: What are you hearing from Republicans, if they believe this could have an impact on the upcoming 2018 midterm elections?
BERG: So far not hearing that concern, Wolf, among Republicans. The bigger concern, of course, is that this will, as Ron suggested, contribute to a larger perception that voters have with Donald Trump and contribute to his very low unpopularity. It's ticked up slightly in some polling. But still pretty low, essentially going into this midterm election. So that's the big concern for Republicans.
How do they get their candidates to win in an environment where the sitting president is so unpopular. Historically, that's a very bad sign, if you're an incumbent.
BLITZER: All right. There's more we need to discuss. Stick around. How angry is Vladimir Putin tonight? And now that the Trump administration ordered new sanctions against some of his cronies.
[18:45:35] BLITZER: Tonight, a fiery response from Russia's foreign ministry to new U.S. sanctions on President Vladimir Putin's allies. The Kremlin accusing the Trump administration of trying to achieve world dominance as it takes a tougher line against Moscow for its election meddling and other hostile actions.
Let's bring back our analysts.
And, Samantha Vinograd, how much are these new sanctions going to anger Putin?
SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I don't think Putin is happy. If I were Vladimir Putin -- and, Wolf, I definitely don't want to be advising the Russian president, but I'd spend less time with these false statements about the United States and do a little damage control. But the truth is what's really going to hurt Vladimir Putin is if European countries follow suit and take similar actions to what we did today.
These oligarchs' assets are primarily in Europe. And so, for these sanctions to really bite, the United States should try to lead an international coalition likes we did on Iran that would freeze oligarch's assets in places like Cyprus and Greece and their ability to invest in the British real estate sector, for example. And so, if I were Putin, I'd be calling counterparts in Europe rather than issues these ridiculous statements about the United States.
BLITZER: As you know, Sam, the White House is connecting these sanctions to Russia's election meddling here in the United States, among other things. But when you look at the details, what's your analysis?
VINOGRAD: Something feels really fishy to me here, Wolf. I worked at the Treasury Department and the White House on sanctions. The White House did say these designations today are because of election meddling. But when you actually read the announcement, the reference with how these people are designated have everything to do with Ukraine and Syria, and malicious activity there, and nothing to do with election meddling.
That's in stark contrast to the designations made in March which were specifically authorized executive orders that had to do with malicious cyber activity and election interference. So, I'm just not clear why we're talking about election meddling today and that's not reflected in the actual treasury authorizations.
BLITZER: Very interesting. Ron Brownstein, is this a new Cold War?
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No. I mean, I don't give Vladimir Putin much more credit than he deserves. The USSR was a global competitor to the U.S., not only nuclear armed, with one with an ideology that had adherence and drew, you know, support from around the world. There are very few people around the world who are raising the banner they want their society to be more like Vladimir Putin's Russia, you know, kind of a corrupt plutocracy.
What it is is it's a ma -- kind of malevolent force in world events that is moving to maximize its power, using asymmetrical kind of means that try to undermine western democracies and it has to be clearly viewed as kind of a hostile force at this point, but it really gives Putin far more credit than he deserves to equate what he is doing with the kind of global reach that USSR offered ideologically as well as materially.
BLITZER: You know, it's very interesting, Rebecca. Very tough new sanctions against Putin's cronies over there, the oligarchs as they're called. But pretty much silence from the president himself. He doesn't tweet about it, doesn't talk about it. Why is that?
REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, it's a good question, Wolf. I mean, the actions themselves speak very loudly for themselves. We here at the table say don't listen to what the president says, watch what he does. The sanctions on the face are important. But as Sam was pointing out,
there is this ambiguity about why the White House is taking this action now and that's why the president's voice is so important, because he could speak, clarify why the United States is taking this action against Russia, stand up to Russia, but the president doesn't do that because he doesn't like to take on Vladimir Putin directly.
BROWNSTEIN: And, in fact, you can contrast this. You see where the president's heart is. Look at the way the president talks about Mexico, look a the way he talked about sending troops down to the border, look at the way he talks about confronting China on trade, even at the risk of an escalating trade war that could pose real problems for Republicans in the farm belt. That kind of insular nationalism, that American first kind of inward looking, belligerent approach to the world, that is where his energy is.
And you can see as the shackles come off as to Gary Cohns and to the McMasters of the world go away, that is in the direction clearly where his heart is. And, by the way, it is what Republicans in Congress have to realize they are kind of strapped in for. I mean, this is where the ride is going and you see the kind of the concerns that have been raised in the last couple of days by people like Ben Sasse. But they don't really have an easy way to get off this train.
BERG: But the reason, of course, that the president focuses on issues like the border, like immigration is because he sees the political upside where maybe he doesn't see the political upside in taking on --
[18:50:07] BROWNSTEIN: I think that's also where his heart is. I mean, that is -- look, this kind of vision of American besieged is I think the closest he's had to a consistent ideology through the time we've seen him as a public figure.
BLITZER: Amidst all of this, Joey Jackson, the special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation continues. Just last month, we're told, he got a warrant for five more phone numbers. What does that tell you about where he's headed?
JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, interestingly enough, when you talk about collusion, right, the nature of collusion deals with relationships. So, when you look at phone numbers, what are you looking to do? You want to know who is speaking to who about what and when.
And so, that would really drive you to the point of knowing what the interactions are between the parties, and we don't know. Are these conversations, are they getting wire taps or other such things?
One of the terrible things from our perspective in the media and having walked people through federal and state investigations is you're kind of the last to know even as the lawyer, the prosecutors hold the cards. They know what they're doing but we don't, and that's a frustrating point, but it certainly speaks to the issue of progress, and it speaks to the issue of getting to the root of it, which is collusion. What, if any, was occurring and when?
BLITZER: It's interesting, Sam. New sanctions against some of these oligarchs, but Mueller's team are going after some of these oligarchs who arrived at the United States and their questioned at an international airport, they've got a search warrant, take their phones, documents. They're continuing along this line as well.
VINOGRAD: Most definitely. I think they're looking into any campaign finance violations, but I'm really interested in whether there's any line of questioning related to any more meetings that we don't know about, or any quid pro quos that these oligarchs passed on on behalf of Vladimir Putin. They are really arms of the Russian state. That's part of why they were sanctioned today, talking to Paul Manafort, talking to other members of the campaign or transition team and asking for policy promises in exchange of laundering of information from the Russians or, again, kind of quid pro quo. That to me is the real question here.
BLITZER: There is more news we're following. Everybody, stick around.
Just ahead: Days after President Trump ordered U.S. troops to the Mexican border, are the first National Guard units ready to deploy? We're going live to the border in Arizona.
[18:57:03] BLITZER: Tonight, some U.S. National Guard forces are getting their marching orders two days after the president signed a proclamation directing troops to secure the border with Mexico.
Let's get some details on this breaking story. CNN's Nick Watt is in Arizona for us, not far from the border.
Nick, what's the latest?
NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, let's start in Texas where the Governor Abbott is going to hold a press conference about 7:30 Eastern Time to announce their plan. We already know the wheels are in motion over there, and we just heard from the Arizona government that next week, he's going to deploy 150 National Guard to the border here between Arizona and Mexico.
And they may come here. We are in Sasabe, which is little town on the border. The National Guard has been here before, back in 2007. They've also had problems here with drug smugglers, gun smugglers, people smugglers, immigrants coming over the border.
And here's another reason. Look at that. It looks like a fence as far as the eye can see, miles into the distance. But, Wolf, sometimes the camera can lie. This fence -- this fence ends right here. Back to you, Wolf.
BLITZER: And what do we know about the National Guard troops who are going there? Any specific information you're getting? WATT: Well, I mean, what we know so far is that the role they will be
playing is a support capacity. There is actually a law from 1848 that forbids them from enforcing the law on U.S. soil, so they will be in some sort of support capacity. In the past when they've been deployed, remember, President Bush and President Obama both deployed the National Guard to the border, and those times they were used for intelligence gathering and for infrastructure work. They will be here to support the border patrol rather than to, I suppose, lead the charge -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We don't know if they will be armed, right?
WATT: We do not know if they will be armed or not, absolutely not. But as I say, they will not be engaging with people crossing the border. They will not be enforcing U.S. law. They will be supporting the people who are paid to do that and do it every day.
BLITZER: Nick Watt reporting for us along the border in Arizona, the border with Mexico near that fence which really has some problems, that particular fence over there. Thanks very much.
Finally, finally, you may have noticed that our chief political analyst Gloria Borger isn't with us tonight. Here's why. Her first grandchild was born overnight. Harper Huntsman Morgan, a healthy baby girl weighing nearly six pounds. We send our best wishes to Harper's mom, Mary Ann, dad Evan, he's Gloria's son, by the way. And, of course, the proud grandparents Gloria and her husband Lance.
And to Harper we say this -- Harper, we welcome you to THE SITUATION ROOM family. You look beautiful.
That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.